The Public Service Commission of Maryland (PSC) issued a decision (Order No. 87264) on November 24 that will make it about 50 percent cheaper for Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) customers to opt out of the utility’s smart grid initiative.
To date, ratepayers have been charged a one-time up-front penalty of $75 (payable in three monthly installments), as well as a recurring $11 fee on their monthly bills for refusing to take part in the program. The PSC found that the amount of the fee was “inappropriate,” given that recent opt-out levels have been in excess of the 1 percent of ratepayers whom the utility originally had assumed would not join the initiative when it determined the cost structure. Indeed, the commission stated, “the most recent reports on the performance metrics associated with the deployment of BGE’s smart grid initiative reflect a current opt-out rate in the range of 3.8 percent to 4.15 percent.
Therefore, the commission stated, “After considering fully the record before us, we find that an interim adjustment is warranted, so that the monthly fee paid by BGE opt-out customers shall be $5.50, effective with the January 2016 billing cycle.” The decision will not affect the one-time penalty charge.
According to BGE, opt-out enrollment likely peaked in the September 2015 timeframe, and the utility is now beginning to realize a decline in the number of opt-out customers; in fact, the opt-out percentage decreased by approximately 0.05 percent between September 30 and a preliminary hearing held on November 5.
The decision, the commission said, “speaks for itself in regard to our continued commitment to monitor the effectiveness of the opt-out policies; the revised monthly opt-out fee for BGE customers is now the lowest in the nation as determined by a state regulatory body.”
Moreover, the PSC has added a requirement for quarterly reporting metrics on opt-outs, that, it said would “further ensure and enable the proactive monitoring of the opt-out revenues versus opt-out program costs so that interim adjustments may be more easily facilitated in the future, should circumstances warrant. ”
The commission has directed BGE to file revised tariff pages to reflect the modified recurring monthly opt-out fee no later than December 1.